New research confirms that providing women access to free birth control does not result in women having sex with more partners -- a false claim that has been repeatedly pushed and promoted by conservative media, and which contributes to their efforts to stigmatize women's sexuality.
Providing women with no-cost contraception did not result in "riskier" sexual behavior (defined by the researchers as "sex with multiple partners") but did reduce unintended pregnancies and abortions, according to a comprehensive study from the Washington University School of Medicine.
As Amanda Duberman noted at the Huffington Post, having new empirical data to push back on the moralizing arguments against birth control is helpful, but raises the question: "why do we care?" The fact that researchers felt the need to study this particular claim about birth control at all reveals an "implicit stigmatization" of women's sexuality (emphasis added):
It is a small, pervasive set of voices that leads researchers to consider "multiple sexual partners" over the course of an entire year "risky sexual behavior."
The past decade of research has confirmed what women's health advocates already knew: the benefits of reducing barriers to birth control access far outweigh any subjectively determined adverse effects.
What's unfortunate is that making a case for something many women need relies on the implicit stigmatization of their sexuality. That researchers and health advocates need to presume harsh judgement of sexually active women to convince skeptics of birth control's utility just reminds us how far we have to go.
Duberman is right; it should not matter whether women have more or less sex when taking birth control pills. But it's not just a small set of conservative political voices pushing this offensive criticism of women's sexuality and inspiring scientific research. Conservative media have played a role in forcing this conversation, repeatedly slut-shaming women who use birth control and insisting that anyone who supports government funding for free contraceptives is equivalent to a prostitute.
Fox News attacked the Obama administration's decision to formally normalize longstanding U.S. immigration policy that limits deportation and makes it easier for the undocumented family members of current and former service members to attain legal status.
As the Christian Science Monitor noted, "the Department of Homeland Security has long had the authority to halt the deportation of people related to military personnel, and it is this function that the department clarified with specific guidelines to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in a Nov. 15 memorandum."
In that November 2013 memo, DHS stressed that it was clarifying the directive to "ensure consistent adjudication of parole requests made on behalf of aliens who are present without admission or parole and who are spouses, children and parents of those serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve or who previously served in the U.S. Armed Forces or Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve."
Indeed, according to the Arizona Republic:
In 2010, former Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano began an informal policy granting so called "parole-in-place" to undocumented parents, spouses, and children of active-duty military personnel.
But the informal policy was not being followed consistently in immigration field offices across the country.
As a result, many military personnel who applied for immigration parole for their undocumented parents, spouses and children still were having their cases denied even though they qualified, [immigration attorney Margaret] Stock said.
But in teasing a report about the memo on America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer asked: "Is that compassion or is that amnesty?" Co-host Martha MacCallum went on to introduce the report by claiming that the Obama administration was "bypassing Congress again to expand immigration reform."
Though Fox News' report, which was narrated by correspondent William La Jeunesse, included the story of a U.S. Marine veteran and his undocumented wife, it also featured Dan Cadman, a fellow from the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies, who claimed the policy was helping a "whole class of aliens with no right to be in the United States."
The Baltimore Sun cut ties with their conservative blog after learning of the blog's potential unethical behavior, a Sun spokesperson said Monday.
"The Baltimore Sun's editorial independence is among our most fundamental values and we have a strict separation between advertising and the content we produce," Sun Director of Marketing Renee Mutchnik told Media Matters in a statement explaining the paper's separation from the bloggers.
Late last year the Sun inked a deal with the conservative blog Red Maryland to provide content for baltimoresun.com as well as a weekly op-ed page in the paper's print edition. In a November op-ed, Red Maryland's Mark Newgent explained that their blog was "the premiere source for conservative news and opinion in Maryland" and that he and his colleagues would now have "the opportunity to advance conservative, limited government ideas to a larger audience." While the bloggers would continue to operate their private blog, they would also write content for a Red Maryland blog on the Sun's website.
But questions over the bloggers' ethical behavior surfaced last week when a rival conservative blogger posted what he claimed was an email he received from friends outlining a pitch from Red Maryland urging Republican candidates to advertise on the bloggers' radio show to "get the message out to like-minded conservatives in your upcoming primary election." The email claimed that Red Maryland would use all "our platforms at BaltimoreSun.com, RedMaryland.com, and the Red Maryland network" to introduce candidates to the public, suggesting that candidates who paid for the ads could also expect favorable coverage from the bloggers in their roles as paid contributors to the Sun.
Red Maryland did not dispute the authenticity of the email but denied the conservative rival's pay-to-play accusation in a March 7 blog post on their original website, stating that they had provided platforms to candidates since the site's founding to give these candidates media attention and statewide audiences. However, Red Maryland also formally acknowledged that Newgent, who wrote for both Red Maryland's original site and in the Sun, has been paid by Larry Hogan, a Republican gubernatorial candidate Red Maryland has endorsed:
First, we've never claimed to be "objective." We wear our biases openly on our sleeve, always have. You've always known where Red Maryland was coming from. Newgent has repeatedly disclosed his work for Change Maryland and the Hogan for Governor Campaign. He has performed research work for both organizations. Hardly a "political favor."
Politico's Dylan Byers reports that sources say Attkisson left CBS because she "had grown frustrated with what she saw as the network's liberal bias" while some staffers characterized her work as "agenda-driven, [which] had led network executives to doubt the impartiality of her reporting."
Attkisson is writing a book tentatively titled "Stonewalled: One Reporter's Fight for Truth in Obama's Washington" for HarperCollins, which is owned by News Corporation, the corporate sibling of Fox News parent 21st Century Fox.
If Attkisson joins Fox, she'll follow the path of several other controversial media figures who conservatives believed were mistreated by the media. Those include Doug McKelway, Lou Dobbs, Don Imus, and Judith Miller. Reporter Bernard Goldberg joined Fox News after leaving CBS and accusing his former employer of liberally slanting their news coverage.
Fox News has showered praise on Attkisson in recent months, with personalities indicating they want her to join the conservative network.
Right-wing columnist Marc Thiessen hypocritically attacked President Obama for taking a weekend trip during the crisis in Ukraine, ignoring the fact that, not only did President Bush deliver remarks on the 2008 invasion of Georgia while on vacation, but those remarks were delivered while Thiessen himself was Bush's head speechwriter.
In a March 10 Washington Post column, Thiessen criticized Obama for his recent trip to Florida during an ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Thiessen claimed "It's winter for democracy in Ukraine but for Obama and Biden it's spring break" and went on to claim that Obama should have delivered remarks from the Oval Office:
While more Russian forces were pouring into Crimea this past weekend, and Russian legislators announced their readiness to annex the Ukrainian province, where was our commander in chief? Monitoring events in the Situation Room? Meeting with the Joint Chiefs at the Pentagon? Holding an emergency meeting of NATO leaders? Nope. He was enjoying the Florida sunshine with his family at an oceanfront resort in Key Largo.
And Vice President Biden? He was on vacation in the Virgin Islands.
It's winter for democracy in Ukraine, but for Obama and Biden it's spring break.
Both the president and the vice president go on vacation. At the same time. During an international crisis. You can't make this up.
If the president wants to use body language to send a message to Russia, the way to do it is to lean across the Resolute desk, look into a television camera and tell America and the world what is at stake in Ukraine -- and what he intends to do to help the Ukrainian people.
But Obama is not the first president to deliver remarks about Russian military aggression while on vacation -- a fact that Thiessen, of all people, should know. On August 16, 2008, during the Russian invasion into Georgia, President George W. Bush delayed a planned vacation for one day, then delivered remarks on the situation from his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Those remarks were likely written, at least partially, by Thiessen himself who was Bush's chief speechwriter at the time.
Other media outlets have criticized the timing of Obama's trip to Florida without mentioning Bush's 2008 trip to Crawford, and Thiessen has recently attacked Obama for "emboldening" Putin while advocating for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline as a solution to the ongoing crisis.
National Review has established itself as a staunch proponent of allowing business owners refuse service to gay and lesbian customers. It's a position that unfortunately aligns with National Review's record of attacking defending discrimination against marginalized groups, including its shameful opposition to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950's.
For months, National Review's staff has worked to invent bogus justifications for anti-gay business discrimination, condemning non-discrimination efforts as a form of government overreach. Long before states like Kansas and Arizona sought to pass laws allowing business to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers, National Review was championing business owners who had been sued for engaging in anti-gay discrimination.
In August, after the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled unanimously that photographer Elaine Huguenin violated the state's Human Rights Act by refusing to photograph a same-sex couple's commitment ceremony, National Review joined other right-wing media outlets in their howls of outrage. At National Review Online, NRO contributor and Heritage Foundation fellow Ryan T. Anderson blasted the ruling as a sign that social conservatives had been "driven to the margins of culture," with "religious believers" and "the truth about marriage" under judicial assault.
NRO also took up the mantle of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple. In a one-sided interview published under the headline "Let Him Bake Cake in Freedom," NRO editor-at-large Kathryn Jean Lopez framed Phillips, whom a state judge ruled had violated Colorado's anti-discrimination law, as a victim of anti-Christian persecution. Lopez wondered what the "future of freedom" looked like in a world where businesses couldn't turn away LGBT customers.
Given its support for anti-gay businesses, it was unsurprising that National Review cheered the introduction of several state license-to-discriminate bills this winter.
After USA Today columnist and Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers penned a column denouncing Kansas' bill as an example of "homosexual Jim Crow laws," Anderson took to NRO to defend anti-gay business practices as protected under "freedom of association and freedom of contract." Anderson saw "religious liberty and the rights of conscience," not the rights and dignity of LGBT customers, at stake.
As national attention turned toward Arizona following the demise of the Kansas bill, support for anti-gay segregation measures became National Review's official editorial position. Following the Arizona legislature's passage of S.B. 1062 - which would have protected businesses from being sued for anti-gay discrimination - the National Review's editors published a February 24 editorial urging Republican Gov. Jan Brewer to sign the measure. The "necessary" bill, the editors wrote, simply affirmed the ethos of "live-and-let live."
After ducking the controversy over National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel," NRA leaders at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference tried to shield the organization from the fallout over those comments.
While some NRA supporters criticized Nugent, three NRA board members sought to downplay his actions and his connection to their organization, suggesting he isn't viewed mainly as an NRA representative or brushing the controversy off as unimportant.
Nugent issued the slur during a January interview, but the comments received new interest last month when Nugent campaigned with Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott. Following days of negative coverage for both Abbott and Nugent, including condemnations from GOP leaders, Nugent offered a half-hearted apology, though "not necessarily to the president," for his "subhuman mongrel" comment. He then attacked Obama as a lying, law-breaking racist who engages in Nazi tactics.
Former NRA president and current board member David Keene said the "subhuman mongrel" comments do not reflect on the gun-rights organization because "Ted is seen as Ted more than as an NRA board member."
Grover Norquist, another NRA board member, said the comments were "not a good idea," but added they are not bad enough to hurt the NRA's image because Nugent is viewed differently than other NRA leaders.
"He's a rock star and people know he's talking as him and he is talking outrageously," Norquist said following a CPAC "meet and greet" he hosted for fans. "If an establishment Republican said that, you'd go, 'whoa Nellie.' Rock stars and hip hop artists are cut some slack in American society."
Despite their attempts to suggest Nugent's comments don't reflect directly on the NRA, as a musician and conservative commentator, Nugent is to many the public face of the organization. He has had a longstanding relationship with the group, serving on its board of directors since 1995. In the group's 2013 board elections Nugent was second only to Fox News contributor Oliver North for most votes in favor of reelection.
After the 2012 meeting, Nugent drew the attention of the Secret Service for saying he would be "dead or in jail" if Obama was reelected as president. An NRA memo indicated that he was paid $50,000 by the group for a "spoken presentation" in 2011. Nugent has also recorded the song "I Am The NRA," which includes the lyrics: "If you hate tyrants and dictators and are ready to give freedom a whirl/Celebrate the NRA and the shot heard round the world."
Oliver North denied knowing about the "subhuman mongrel" comments during an interview at CPAC. He accused Media Matters of trying to instigate criticism from him. Questioned at CPAC's radio row, North said, "I'm not necessarily sure how to take your word for what he said since I didn't hear it I am not going to comment about it."
A purported debate between conservative pundit Ann Coulter and the Daily Caller's Mickey Kaus at the Conservative Political Action Committee highlighted the ugly rhetoric conservative media have used to discuss immigration and showed how far right conservative media have shifted compared to a Republican Party that has maintained that immigration reform is necessary and important.
In what was billed as a "debate" between a liberal and a conservative on the last day of CPAC, Coulter sat down with Kaus to discuss various issues but ended up talking mainly about immigration reform or as they call it, "amnesty." After repeating the debunked claim that President Obama was selectively enforcing immigration laws, Coulter and Kaus, both well-known opponents of immigration reform, launched into an attack on reform that touched on many of the conservative media's favorite discredited myths, including:
Interspersed within these myths was language that has found favor among nativist and anti-immigrant fringe groups such as the term "anchor baby," a derogatory phrase for the American children of undocumented immigrants.
At one point, Kaus stated that immigration reform represented "the triumph of ethnic politics over economic politics." Coulter for her part bizarrely accused immigrants of trashing national parks while arguing for stigmatizing illegal border crossers and unwed mothers:
COULTER: Now at all these national parks in California where the littering is coming from recent immigrants -- oh, we can't suggest any one group is doing it. Let's just shut the park. And that's what they're doing. This is always the solution now. We don't want to stigmatize anyone. No sometimes stigma is good. They've stigmatized smoking out of existence, how about stigmatizing unwed motherhood, littering, running across the border illegally. How about stigmatizing it? Can we just do that?
She also complained about the "browning of America" and claimed that "if you don't celebrate it, you're a racist." She concluded the discussion by threatening Republicans who support reform with "death squads."
As Right Wing Watch reported, during another event before her discussion at CPAC, Coulter likened the country's changing demographics to being raped because "demographics are changing by force."
Coulter and Kaus' rhetoric on immigration is typical of what passes for discourse on the issue in right-wing media circles. Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham has been especially inflammatory, routinely using racially tinged speech while talking about immigrants. Conservative radio host Mark Levin has accused undocumented students of lowering U.S. education rankings and has said that reform represents the "suicide of the nation." Rush Limbaugh has used talking points from nativist groups to argue against immigration reform. Fox News has traded on fears of undocumented immigrants to advance absurd claims, including that photo ID cards will allow them to vote (even though legal and undocumented immigrants constitutionally cannot) and that allowing undocumented immigrants to drive legally with a state-issued driver's license will endanger American lives.
When the State Department released its final Environmental Impact Statement, nearly all the headlines read the same: "Report Opens Way to Approval for Keystone Pipeline" and "State Dept. Keystone XL Would Have Little Impact On Climate Change." Yet after Reuters broke the news last week that the State Department was wrong in its predictions of greatly expanded rail capacity, undermining its claim of no climate impact, no major media outlet amplified the report.
In a report released late on Friday, January 31, the State Department concluded that Keystone XL was "unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction in oil sands areas" based on the assumption that if the pipeline were not built, the equivalent amount of tar sands would instead be transported by rail. It was this finding that the media trumpeted, largely ignoring that buried in the analysis, the State Department for the first time acknowledged that under some studied scenarios, the project could have the equivalent climate impact of adding 5.7 million new cars to the road. The idea that the Keystone XL would not harm the climate led many to declare that President Barack Obama should approve the pipeline, even spurring MSNBC host Ed Schultz to call for approval (before later reversing his stance) and liberal commentator James Carville to predict that the pipeline would be built.
On March 5, Reuters added to skepticism that locking in infrastructure enabling tar sands extraction would have no climate impact, reporting that the State Department's draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) had significantly overestimated the amount of tar sands that would move by rail from Canada to the Gulf Coast. The draft EIS projected that about 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) would be moved along this route by rail before the end of 2013. However, a Reuters analysis found that "even in December, when deliveries were near their highest for the year, that tally did not top 40,000 bpd" -- less than a quarter of the State Department's prediction. The final EIS removed any specific projections of movement by rail.
Not a single major media outlet has reported on Reuters' finding, according to a Media Matters search.* In fact, some continued to repeat the State Department's claim that Keystone XL could be replaced by rail without mentioning the report.
Much of the initial coverage of the State Department's final EIS left out that an investigation at the time was looking into whether the contractor that wrote the report for the State Department had a conflict of interest in part because it was a member of the pro-pipeline American Petroleum Institute (API). The investigation later concluded that it did not, but environmentalists still contended it was based on too low of a bar. In fact, API told reporters prior to the final EIS release that it received news from inside the State Department about the timing and conclusions of the report, allowing it to spin the findings to reporters beforehand.
If the annual Conservative Political Action Conference is any indication, conservative media won't be abandoning their scandal-mongering about the 2012 attacks in Benghazi any time soon. Though conservatives' conspiracies about the assault on U.S. diplomatic facilities have fallen apart under scrutiny, many CPAC attendees are upset with mainstream outlets for not being aggressive enough on the story.
"I would say the media isn't pursuing information about Benghazi enough, including FOIAs, trying to interview people who ... the government doesn't want interviewed and has discouraged from being interviewed and not in general doing due diligence," said John Fund, a conservative columnist at National Review. "I would compare the lack of follow through unfavorably to scandals such as Abu Ghraib and even Guantanamo."
Larry O'Connor, editor of Breitbart.com, offered a similar view when asked if Benghazi is being covered enough. "I see stories from Sharyl Attkisson at CBS News and Bret Baier's Special Report that I don't see other outlets covering."
Mainstream outlets have devoted significant coverage to the Benghazi story, if not always in the manner that those pushing the scandal would prefer. In December, The New York Times published an exhaustive six-part series on Benghazi which debunked several myths propagated by the conservative media. The fact-finding out of Congress also hasn't backed the scandal narrative; in January, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a bipartisan report stating that there was no attempt by the Obama administration to cover up the attacks and pointing out that no "stand down" order was given to the military.
Those facts aren't stopping the conservative media.
"We have still not gotten a great answer as to why the military did not respond when one of our embassies is attacked," said John Solomon, editor of The Washington Times. Regardless of what Solomon considers a "great answer," the various aspects of the military response the night of the attacks have been widely detailed.
TownHall.com editor and Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich largely blamed the administration for reporters' difficulties covering the story, saying, "It is difficult for reporters to cover an issue when the government is not giving answers."
Support for more Benghazi investigations did not only come from media figures at CPAC. With former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton receiving massive attention over her potential run for the White House in 2016, conservatives clearly see Benghazi as a way to damage her possible candidacy.
During a speech, Sen. Mitch McConnell claimed media were "trying to fix Benghazi for Hillary" by not repeating the right-wing myths about the attacks.
There was also a Breitbart News-sponsored panel just a block away from the CPAC venue where participants claimed a cover-up exists, but offered few specifics.